Total solar eclipse 2002 December 4

in South Australia

Location Report for Lyndhurst
part 1 of 2

Lyndhurst regional map

Click here to download a high-resolution version of this map (2.5MB zip)


If you have come directly to this page from another website; you can find my other eclipse information here.

NOTE : This page should be read in conjunction with the Stuart Highway Location Report, which contains some more general discussion about driving conditions.



General notes

Lyndhurst is located in a broad shallow valley between a great bifurcation in the northern Flinders Ranges. One arm of the Ranges turns east-northeast towards the rugged plateaux and mountains of the Arkaroola region, before terminating in the modest hill of Mount Hopeless -- named by a despairing 19th century explorer gazing northwards from its summit across the blistering sands and salt lakes of the Strzelecki Desert. The other arm strikes northwestwards for several hundred kilometres as a discontinuous band of low ridges and hills. This latter arm may once have joined onto the McDonnell Ranges in central Australia; but any connection has since been buried under younger rocks.

The distinctive topography of the northern Flinders Ranges is the result of "dome and basin" tectonics, modified by more recent geological faults and diapirs. The Flinders began about 1400 million years ago as a vast accumulation of sediments in an ancient submarine trough. These were compressed to rock and uplifted ~450 million years ago to form mountain ranges averaging 4000-5000 metres high. These original mountains were then eroded away by ~150 million years ago, leaving a nearly flat topography with a few remnant hills. The separation of Australia from Antarctica (about 55 million years ago) re-activated the ancient fault lines beneath the Flinders; forcing the entire region to rise about one kilometre. Erosion quickly resumed in the (then) wet and cool climate; cutting out the many gorges, escarpments and broad valleys seen in today's Flinders -- and producing the paradoxical outcome of a geographically young mountain region made of geologically old rocks!

As the Australian continent has drifted north to drier latitudes the climate of the Flinders has slowly altered. Although they are not very high mountains (by world standards) the Flinders still attract significantly more cloud and rainfall than the deserts surrounding them. Some individual peaks and ridges get as much annual rainfall as places much further south; and these provide oases of nearly-permanent water or moist ground for many species of plants and animals. Even in drought years there will be some underground water seeping through the crevices, stones and sand in the creek beds....which is why practically every creek and watercourse in the Flinders (or flowing out of them) has trees along it.

Camping in the Flinders creek beds, with their inviting swathes of soft sand and large shady trees, can be fatal. The most common large tree along the creeks is the Red Gum -- which has a habit of dropping branches (some weighing several tonnes) without warning. Many people have been crushed to death under Red Gums. In addition, if rain falls somewhere upstream -- perhaps from a single thunderstorm concealed by the intervening hills -- then a flash flood may sweep down the creek. Your first warning of the flood may be the roar of the several-metres-high wall of debris-laden water as it hurtles towards your camp. DON'T camp in the creek beds!

Two massive layers of quartzite sandstones exist within the Flinders rock sequence. The ABC Range quartzite (named after a distinctive line of 26 practically-identical hills) and the younger Pound quartzite (named after Wilpena Pound its most spectacular outcrop) are both very resistant to erosion. Many of the ridges and hills in the Flinders are capped by one or the other of these quartzites; which act as a protective layer for the softer rocks beneath them. The lower parts of the Pound quartzite also contain rare fossils of ancient jellyfish and other marine invertebrates of the Ediacara fauna. The combination of tree-lined creeks and gorges, and the rugged hills with their layers of tinted quartzite and colourful shales, has attracted many artists and photographers to this region.

One of the the two main routes into the northern Flinders Ranges begins on the highway a few kilometres south of Port Augusta; then goes through the scenic Pichi Richi Pass, to the historic town of Quorn, and then to Hawker. The second route begins in the Clare Valley wine region, then through Jamestown and Orroroo, then to Hawker on a recently bitumenised road. The road to Leigh Creek is bitumen, but also unfenced -- so watch out for wandering cattle, sheep and other animals!



Leigh Creek

The Leigh Creek open-cut coal mine was opened in 1943 to fulfil a desperate strategic need: a reliable coal supply for South Australia's power stations. The Leigh Creek coal was conveniently located beside the (former) Port Augusta to Alice Springs railway; and in the hills nearby a creek could be dammed to provide a good reservoir of reliable water. So the development of the mine, and the town for its workers, was completed with all the haste of wartime. A new power station was also built near Port Augusta; using specially designed boilers to burn the low-grade Leigh Creek coal. Coal so grotty, in fact, that if it had been discovered today, it would have never been mined because it would have failed to pass the modern Environmental Impact Statement process!

But it was wartime -- and the state was then ruled by an industrial-development-minded government -- so the mine was developed. And expanded by the same government, who held office for many years after the war. At which point a problem was discovered: the town had been built on top of the best coal deposits. But the town was owned by the state government's electricity company. Their solution? Build an entirely new town of Leigh Creek, well away from the coal, using some modern town planning and environmental ideas.

They did a good job. Today Leigh Creek is a modern little town full of trees, and home to ~600 people. There is a shopping centre, petrol station, public swimming pool, parks and sports venues. The local golf course is providing camping space for eclipse visitors. Until recently Leigh Creek was still very much a "company town", but like Roxby Downs it is now developing its tourism potential more fully. The local visitor information centre is run by the local school (and they are selling eclipse shades and souvenirs). Because it is about 600 km by bitumen road from Adelaide, and well-placed for northern Flinders and Outback tourism, Leigh Creek has become a popular overnight stop for travellers. The local airstrip can be used by small commercial aircraft.

Leigh Creek gets a 99.3 percent partial eclipse on December 4. It is likely that the moon's shadow could be seen as a vast "wedge" or "wall of darkness" in the sky as it passes north of here.



South of centreline, on the Leigh Creek - Lyndhurst road

Leigh Creek is accessed via a turnoff from the road; and I have adopted this intersection as the zero distance to the eclipse.

About 6km north of Leigh Creek is the small town of Copley and the start of the dirt road to Arkaroola. Copley was a rail stop and telegraph station on the former Port Augusta to Alice Springs railway. Although you will still see a railway line here, it is now used only by the coal trains to Port Augusta.

Continuing north on the bitumen road, the entrance to the coal mine is passed 14.5km from Leigh Creek. A carpark and viewing area has been established overlooking one of the open pits, and kids can have some fun climbing about in one of the old dragline excavators here. The carpark gets a 99.8 percent partial eclipse on December 4.

10km south of LyndhurstSouth Limit crosses the road in flat barren and treeless terrain 28.5km from Leigh Creek. This panorama, looking northwest from 10km south of Lyndhurst (2.0km outside South Limit), is a typical view of the terrain south of the town.

Download a high resolution version of this panorama (378kB zip).


cattlegrid near south limitA cattlegrid 700 metres inside South Limit, shown in this photo, is the only easily recognised landmark near South Limit. The mountains to the west rise less than 1 degree above the horizon and would present no obstruction to eclipse viewing. If eclipse day is unusually cold (eg: 10 C instead of 30 C) then atmospheric refraction could move the South Limit 0.4 km (road distance) closer to Leigh Creek.



Lyndhurst

The bitumen road (and a small water pipeline) from Leigh Creek both end at Lyndhurst, 8.0km by road inside South Limit and 9.1km by road south of centreline. The road north from Lyndhurst to centreline (and beyond to Marree) is dirt. Apart from the general store (which also sells fuel) and the Elsewhere Hotel -- a classic Outback pub -- there's not much in this town of 28 people. But just outside of town is the outdoor gallery of "Talc Alf", who sculpts talc blocks obtained from the Mt Fitton mines.

LyndhurstThis panorama shows the entire town of Lyndhurst. Because of the arid climate and limited water supply in Lyndhurst there is not much greenery. On the left end (southeast of camera) is the Elsewhere Hotel. The hotel's small campground is behind the car near centre; with some basic accommodation in those cabins between the car and the Hotel. The power pole at centre right is at a bearing of 247 degrees from the camera, where totality will be on December 4 at an altitude of 4.5 degrees. Or about twice as high as the power pole from this spot... The tallest structure in Lyndhurst is the microwave relay tower at the right end of this panorama. The mid-afternoon sun (above right end of panorama) is surrounded by a broad milky halo due to fine airborne dust.

Download a high resolution version of this panorama (295kB zip).


looking eastThe Strzelecki Track to Innamincka and the Moomba gasfields also begins at Lyndhurst. This photo was taken looking east, at a survey Bench Mark a few kilometres east of Lyndhurst, and unlike the many westwards-facing images on this page there is little evidence of airborne dust. Therefore most of the airborne dust must be composed of extremely small forward-scattering particles. Probably sucked off the arid ground by the "whirlies" (dust vortices) that are so common in this region....

When it's dry the Track is passable to all vehicles; but travelling along it - especially in summer - is NOT recommended unless you are very well equipped and experienced. There are absolutely no facilities or supplies on the Track; therefore you will need to be totally self-sufficient for all supplies and for any emergencies between Lyndhurst and Innamincka. Travel as part of a convoy if possible...people have died after getting into trouble in lone vehicles. You should also notify a reliable person of your itinerary and vehicle description; so that they can raise the alarm if you fail to reach your destination.

This late afternoon panorama, looking westwards along the Track, is typical of the scenery along much of its length.looking west along the Strzelecki Track

Download a high resolution version of this panorama (371kB zip).


Lyndhurst itself is hosting an outdoor barbecue for over 600 guests on the evening of December 4. And Outback Eclipse Festival .com are running their huge outdoor concert and festival for several days just east of Lyndhurst.

Lyndhurst airstripThe Lyndhurst airstrip is a short distance up the Strzelecki Track on a low plateau. This photo shows it before it was upgraded just days before the eclipse! Now it is much smoother, wider, and has off-runway parking for small aircraft.


The eclipse begins at Lyndhurst at about 18:43:14 (Australian Central Summer Time), with about 23 seconds of totality between 19:41:10 and 19:41:33. At totality the sun will be 4.5 degrees above the horizon at bearing 247 degrees (west-southwest); and it will set -- still 56 percent partially eclipsed -- at about 20:06. Because of the low altitude of totality from here, atmospheric refraction -- which is temperature and pressure dependent -- is a significant factor in calculations; making exact times difficult to predict.

Just after totality ends in Lyndhurst, the moon's shadow (about 30km in diameter here) should be visible overhead as a vast band of darkness in the air. This darkness will recede rapidly to the northeast.



CONTINUE to part 2 of this report....


Copyright © 2002   Fraser Farrell. All rights reserved.